Rabbits: More than floppy ears
My family has raised rabbits now for over 20 years, and I am often asked, “why?”
I love them — that is why — there is no other reason other than that.
Over the years I have had many different breeds, like New Zealands, Harlequins, Flemish Giants, Netherland Dwarfs, Cinnamons, Californians, Checkered Giants, Dutch, English Spot, and Mini Rexes.
Rabbits are for the most part gentle animals, (although you will come across a mean one every once in a while,) are very easy to take care of, and are easy to train. (Yes, there is some training involved with certain breeds.)
When you initially see a rabbit, the first thing that comes to mind is a cute pet, the Cadbury bunny, or the Easter bunny.
However they are more than pets. For some they are a business.
The rabbit business has been growing steadily over the years, and continues to do so. People get into rabbits because one can have them basically anywhere: a garage, house (if you wish), barn, and in the city.
Rabbits are serious business. Most people laugh at me when I tell them this, but it is true.
In Preble County, there are many youth involved with rabbits through the 4-H program, and these children become extremely competitive in the showmanship aspect, which in turn has made them better breeders.
But what really attracts people to rabbits?
Rabbits are very interesting animals.
Yes, most of the time they are found in their cages just sitting there, but there are so many things about rabbits – like their nature and their breed characteristics — that make them fascinating.
Myth: Rabbits are rodents. Many people tend to associate rabbits with the Rodentia order, this is so because until 1912 they were. Rabbits are actually classed as Lagomorpha, a step above the Rodentia.
Most people wonder what the difference is between the two. After some researching of the differences, I found that Lagomorphs differ from the Rodentia order because they have four incisors, and are strictly herbivorous, unlike the Rodentia . However, there are some similarities in the two orders.
Rabbits actually have 28 teeth. They have upper and lower incisors which most people know of, where many would say there are only four teeth, total, in their mouths. However, the rest of the teeth are in the back of their jaw.
Rabbits’ teeth can grow at least a ½ inch in a month, but most people will not notice this because rabbits like to chew, which helps grind their teeth down, preventing dental problems.
Rabbits can see almost 360 degrees around them, yet they do have a blind spot in front of them and directly behind. A rabbit blinks less than 12 times in an hour, and is highly sensitive to bright light. If a rabbit is left in direct sunlight, it can cause temporary to permanent blindness, and can even cause death.
Currently there is research being done to determine whether a rabbit can see red, blue, and green. If you were to research rabbits’ eyes, you would find most experts say that rabbits see the world through a “grainy” picture and some will also say that a rabbit is color blind.
Humans use their nose for smelling and breathing — rabbits do not.
If you watch a rabbit’s nose, you can pretty much tell how the rabbit is feeling. The wiggling of the nose is the indicator. If a rabbit’s nose is moving slowly, it means the rabbit is calm. On the other hand, if a rabbit’s nose is moving rapidly, it can mean a couple of different things. The animal is either very interested in what is going on, or it is agitated.
You can also look at a rabbit’s body position to help figure out what its nose is telling you. The wiggling nose can also stop, and if that is the case, it is a really good sign the rabbit is about to flee. The next time you are around a rabbit, watch its nose, it is pretty cool to see what happens.
The domesticated rabbits that are seen in most rabbit breeders’ rabbitries are from European countries, even though more than half the world’s population is found in North America. Domesticated rabbits should not breed with wild rabbits, because the off-spring will be sterile. This is because the chromosome numbers are different between the two species.
Hot weather is very difficult for a rabbit to tolerate, however they do handle cold weather pretty well as long as they are kept in an area free of drafts, and are kept dry. When the temperature outside starts hitting around 80 degrees, it becomes harder on the rabbits body, and increases the risk of the animal having a heat stroke.
The best way I have found to keep rabbits cool is just make sure they have plenty of water. Some rabbit owners will place frozen water bottles in the rabbit’s cage, so the rabbit can lay against it. Some people will take their rabbits inside to the air conditioner, I do not recommend this — you can actually send a rabbit it into shock and it can die from it.
Other facts about rabbits:
• Rabbits cannot vomit
• A male rabbit is a called a buck, and a female is referred to as a doe.
• Rabbits can be litter box trained.
• There are four different types of rabbit fur: satin, rex, wool, standard or those referred to as “normal”: flyback, rollback, and standing .
• A rabbit’s gestation period is 28–32 days, but normally they deliver on day 30.
• A doe can have anywhere from 1–14 babies per litter.
• A baby rabbit is referred to as a kit, and a group of kits is called a litter.
• A group of rabbits is called a warren.
• Rabbit meat is all white meat.
• Rabbits groom themselves, although some breeds such as the wooled breeds do need to be groomed by hand.
• There are 47 different rabbit breeds recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA).
• Rabbits are to never be picked by their ears; it is very painful to them. Rabbits actually get carried like a football, with their head tucked near the person’s elbow, making them feel safe and secure.
Overall, all animals are very interesting creatures, each with their own unique facts. To find more information about rabbits, visit the American Rabbits Breeders Association website, www.arba.net, or to find out more local information, visit the Ohio State Rabbit Breeders Association website, www.osrba.net.
Next month, look for “Pigs are Pretty” in honor of the upcoming Pork Festival, when I will write about pigs, absolutely fascinating animals.